Emmy®-Award winning actress Vanessa Marcil is no stranger to the Hallmark Brand. In 2009, she starred in the Hallmark Channel Original movie The Nanny Express. Five years later, she is back starring in a brand new original movie entitled Stranded in Paradise. Vanessa Marcil plays Tess, a driven executive whose disastrous business trip to a beautiful island turns into an unexpected new beginning. Stranded In Paradise, based on Lori Copeland’s novel of the same name, will premiere on Hallmark Channel, Saturday, August 9 (9 p.m. ET/PT, 8C).
Vanessa was kind enough to sit down with us to discuss why she became involved with the project, how close to home her character is and what message she would like viewers to take away from the movie.
Pop Culture Principle – What was it about the script for Stranded in Paradise that made you want to be part of this project?
Vanessa Marcil – I am such a big self-proclaimed nerd. I started out in the theater at age 5, so I am very into characters. When I read a character and it resonates with me in one way or another, then I know it’s hitting something inside of me. I was reading this script and it had no attachment to it at the time. It came from a book that my older sister loved. When I read it, I was completely moved by it because it’s basically my sister.
The character’s name is Tess. My sister is super responsible and has been very successful in the corporate world her entire life. She started to hit a turning point in her life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, so she moved in with me. I hadn’t spoken with my father in fifteen years and this kind of brought our family back together. The mother in the film kind of reminds me of my father. It was a very interesting experience to basically play my sister and see what it was like to be her and the route that she took in her life. I think going through cancer made her realize and all of us realize that some of the stuff we get caught up in is not what we should be focusing on. We should be focusing on what really brings us joy and what brings us closer together as family, friends or whoever means something to you.
The story has a great message. It’s really important, especially to me as a mom, that my son gets the definition of success. It’s not how much money you are making or how much of a big shot you are in the world. When you do become a big shot like that, it’s kind of like a treadmill that you get on that’s hard to get off. You have to try and keep up with the joneses and you have to work really long hours to be successful in that way. Sometimes it’s better to downsize and spend more time with family and do something in life that you really enjoy. I want my son to know that is really the definition of success in the end.
Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us the basic premise for Stranded in Paradise?
Vanessa Marcil – It’s a movie about a girl in the corporate world who really has her stuff together as far as how good she is at her job and how long she has been there. In life and in intimate relationships, she couldn’t be any more awkward. I loved playing that because I felt like she is so nerdy and awkward when it comes to human interaction, but when it comes to business, she is on point. She goes to Puerto Rico for work and ends up meeting a few different people who are the right person at the right time and the right place to open her eyes to what is important in her life. One of the big things that is important in her life is to put herself first which is a really hard thing for us as women to do sometimes.
Pop Culture Principle – The movie was shot on location in Puerto Rico. How did those surroundings enhance your performance?
Vanessa Marcil – You know it’s such a beautiful place, but I really loved the contrast and the irony of this character being in business suits 24/7. I think it enhanced my performance in that way with the comedy factor being so big with her being in a navy blue, pinstriped suit on the beach in Puerto Rico. She is so awkward and doesn’t know how to put on a pair of Levi shorts and just run around on the beach. She’s never done that in her life.
Pop Culture Principle – Your character Tess has to decide whether she’s going to take a big risk to change her life. Many people face life changing decisions like this every day. Why do you think some people take the plunge and others don’t?
Vanessa Marcil – I think that if you don’t have somebody in your life that has you push through fear, then fear stops you from doing something. You think that might be a message for you to not do it. My mom put me in theater at five and my dad was a really hard working contractor. I watched my parents really push through some uncomfortable situations and come out the other side. If you are raised to take the safe route and if you feel fear, don’t do something. If you are raised to push through the fear, I think what’s on the other side is joy, true joy. If you don’t face your fears and push through to the other side, you’ll never get to realize how incredible it feels on the other side, so you don’t do it. I am incredibly shy, so every day I push through the fear. The fear never goes away and when you realize that when you do push through the fear on the other side is the best high ever and you kind of being addicted pushing through it. It would be the one big thing that would mean the most to me to know that my son knows how much fun it is to face your fear and push through to the other side. I do see a lot of people who won’t do it; they are scared they won’t do something.
Pop Culture Principle – Your character was laid off from her job. Acting can be a rough profession that may have stretches of time where you aren’t employed. Did you incorporate that experience into your role?
Vanessa Marcil – That’s an interesting question. As an actor, you never have regular work. I don’t think I’ve ever known what that feels like. I was on Las Vegas for seven years, so that is seven years of a steady job which is unusual. Even from that, over the last twenty years, you are talking about seven years of steady work out of twenty years of never knowing when the next job is. I am pretty use to that uneasy feeling. I felt like for her it is such a bigger deal because she’s been with the same job for twenty years to all of a sudden not have a job. For me, it’s almost a comfort zone to be in that space. I am use to it and I like change and uncertainty. For her, I had to pull some things that would really upset me like a family member was sick or I didn’t know if my child was ok. I felt like it needed to come across for this character as a really big crisis that she didn’t have a job.
Pop Culture Principle – This is not the first time you have worked with the Hallmark. What is it about working for them that made you want to come back again?
Vanessa Marcil – I’m very conservative and I love being a mom. I’ve always been my son’s teacher’s aide and room parent in my son’s class. I’ve played a lot of sexy tough girls and that is so the opposite of who I am in real life. In real life I am very nerdy, read books and I never go out. For me, family oriented networks like this are a real comfort zone. I love working for a network like Hallmark. I think girls are supposed to be like an Audrey Hepburn kind of beautiful. I’m not a big fan of working for shows or networks where they want you to take your clothes off 24/7. I love Hallmark for that reason and I feel they are a very beautiful, family oriented network.
Pop Culture Principle – Why do you think the Hallmark brand is resonating with audiences today?
Vanessa Marcil – I have such a big audience of moms and women from starting out on General Hospital and I am so involved with children’s charities and stuff like that, so it really is my crew most of the people who started out watching this channel. Hallmark is really branching out with a lot of men watching the network now. I also have a huge fanbase of men from Las Vegas which is a total opposite fanbase watching Hallmark. I feel really lucky because I’ve been able to reach every type of audience during my career. Hallmark and I are a good match even though I’ve played these kinds of tough characters in the past.
Pop Culture Principle – What message would you like viewers to take away after watching Stranded in Paradise?
Vanessa Marcil – It’s really meaningful to me obviously because I am playing my sister; it’s her story and she’s been like a second mother to me. She’s really the most incredible human being that I have ever known. One message is to see a window into such a good human being like her. Two, know that it is ok to take risks and put yourself first and be happy in life. Don’t feel like you never have enough or you need to achieve more. We are exactly perfect the way we are even with our flaws and the things we need to work on. There is always going to be something else that comes along, you don’t have to grasp onto something that isn’t exactly right for you.
We would like to thank Vanessa for taking the time to chat with us. Don’t forget, Stranded in Paradise airs this coming Saturday at 9pm on the Hallmark Channel.
**Photos courtesy of The Hallmark Channel**